Interview with American Axle & Manufacturing (AAM) Vice President & Chief Technology Officer Phil Guys
No business can do everything, nor should any business try to be everything. Successful manufacturers make decisions that respect the brand, its values and core competencies. Even as they invest more, hire more and innovate more, the smart manufacturer is careful not to grow too far too fast. For manufacturers like American Axle & Manufacturing (AAM), strategic growth is the only acceptable kind.
“Even as we focus on growing our customer base, broadening our regional presence and expanding our global presence, we do it in line with AAM’s three pillars — operational excellence, quality, and technology leadership,” says Phil Guys, vice president and chief technology officer for AAM, a Detroit-based manufacturer of driveline, metal forming, powertrain, and casting technologies. “It’s important for us to remain true to who we are even as we work to grow the business.”
In all three areas — technology leadership, quality and operational excellence — AAM is becoming recognized as a global leader.
“We all have a passion for innovation, from the head of the company on down, we are driven to come up with new ideas and to always provide the customer more of what they’ve come to expect from the AAM brand,” Guys says.
Recent expansions prove this. With more than $1.5 billion invested in research and development since the company was founded in 1994 and a cutting-edge Advanced Technology Development Center located in the heart of Detroit, AAM’s leadership team knows that innovation occurs when businesses foster collaboration, communication and free thinking, “We know who we are but we never let that limit what we think AAM can become — everyone here knows this company is capable of setting incredible new standards for the industry,” comments Guys. “As regulations changes and populations change, we’ve reinvented ourselves, but have never forgotten who and what AAM is at its core.”
The reinvention of AAM has earned the company recognition throughout the industry, including being named a 2016 Supplier of the Year by General Motors, the company’s largest customer and a past recipient of the John G. Thodis Michigan Manufacturer of the Year Award.
“Being honored like this is both humbling and energizing to be recognized for the quality of our products and the quality of our customer service,” Guys says. “It encourages us to continue doing what we’re doing — it’s working and others are noticing.”
AAM’s reinvention is also being marked in 2017 by the acquisition of Metaldyne Performance Group Inc. (MPG), a purchase allowing AAM to take full ownership of their manufacturing niche, broaden their portfolio and expand their global presence. It could also nearly double the brand’s revenue.
“As a business, this was the right move at the right time for the right reasons,” says Guys. “We aren’t expanding for the sake of expanding — there’s a purpose behind it and it’s one any manufacturer can do. When you make decisions — how you innovate, who you partner with — that respect your company’s core values, those core competencies, you can accomplish incredible things without sacrificing anything.”
This article appeared in the June 2017 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.